Saints vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints have earned another victory with a 26-18 win over the Chicago Bears. It seems like every week the current opponent will be the Saints' toughest test yet. And every week I write how the Saints aced said test.
This week is no different.
Many picked the Bears to hand the Saints their first loss (a week after saying Miami would), as the Saints were going into hostile territory. Their ability to win in different fashion may be the aspect that propels them to the ultimate goal.
Most know that the Saints are perennially the NFL's premier pass outfit, but their commitment to the run—in addition to their stingy defense—might put them over the top.
The Saints have a ton of positives to hang their hats on. Conversely, there are areas where they should hang their heads as well.
Let's see who stood out in victory. Here are the complete roster grades from Week 5.
Note: Players are graded on the standard scale. Higher grades are given for splash plays and proper technique. Conversely, lower grades are given for turnovers and improper technique.
Drew Brees: A+
I think this season has gone a long way in showing just how great Brees is. He's operating behind a shaky line that's not producing in the run game. But all he does is continue to produce at an extremely high level.
Brees went 29-of-35 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Finding a negative in his performance would be like trying to locate Waldo of Where's Waldo fame. Its been well over 20 years and I still haven't found him!
Pierre Thomas: A+
For the second straight game, Pierre Thomas was bottled up in the run game. His 19-carry, 26-yard performance was nothing to phone home about. But in Thomas-like fashion, his nine-catch, 55-yard, two-TD performance showed why he will have an impact on every game. What a player!
Sproles did what Sproles does. He had three carries for 10 yards to go with three receptions for 31 yards. Whenever you need a timely first down, this guy has to be on your short list. There's never been a guy who's that small (5'6", 190 lbs) but comes up so big.
Khiry Robinson: C
Robinson got the Mark Ingram treatment with just three carries for nine yards. With his longest run being eight yards, you can pretty much see how his day went. Man, was the eight-yard run electrifying, though! Would like to see what this guy can do with a screen pass. It has to happen eventually.
Overall Grade: B-
Marques Colston: C-
Colston, along with his Bears counterpart, Brandon Marshall, had a very quiet game (two catches for 15 yards). The Saints were taking advantage of the short game with a ton of runs and screen passes. Colston will be back in full effect next week.
Nick Toon: C-
Toon seems to be good for one explosive catch per game (one for 35 yards). He's being billed as the next Marques Colston, but he may be the team's resident field-stretcher before it's all said and done. I want to see more of this kid, as long as he's not dropping his intermediate targets.
Kenny Stills: F
Stills hasn't made much of an impact since opening week. His drop of a key target late in the game could've been costly. You have to wonder if he's starting to lose confidence. He failed to chart despite being targeted twice.
Robert Meachem: Inc
Meachem got his weekly deep-ball target and could not pull it in (unflagged holding). He once again failed to chart, although it must be noted that he wasn't a big part of the game plan.
Overall Grade: D
Jimmy Graham: A+
Every week, we're talking about some spectacular Jimmy Graham performance. I could use an automated message and would be right on his performance more times than not. This dude is the truth! He's indefensible and indispensable. Pay the man!
That was my exact quote from last week. Let's see how long I can continue that automated response. Graham had 10 catches for 135 yards in what has become an average day at the office for Superman Graham.
Ben Watson: C
It was Watson's day to block. His unselfishness will never go unnoticed by yours truly. He failed to reel in his lone target. He will have plenty of days like this on an extremely stacked offense.
Overall Grade: B
Pass Protection: D
Brees was sacked another two times and was pressured a ton more. What used to be the strength of the team has now turned into an Achilles' heel. When a team has line problems, usually it goes home early in postseason play.
This could be disastrous...
Unfortunately, that was a quote from my last report. This line isn't getting any better; I think it's time for a shake-up. Terron Armstead looks pretty good sitting over there on the bench. Putting him at left tackle and transitioning Charles Brown back to right tackle might be the way to go—as suggested by a reader.
Run Blocking: D
The run game is horrible as far as production goes. The holes seem to be few and far between. The Saints have the talent in the backfield to take advantage of daylight, but they need some daylight to do so. It makes you wonder if the Saints have enough talent on the line to get the job done.
Overall Grade: D
Cameron Jordan: B
Cam didn't record a sack, but his presence was most certainly felt in the opposing team's backfield. He generated a tackle for loss, along with three QB hits. He's the best player on the defense and is getting to the point where he needs to be individually schemed against.
Akiem Hicks: D
Hicks was neutralized against a very effective Bears interior line, failing to chart. The Bears had a great scheme designed at getting the ball out of quarterback Jay Cutler's hands quickly. Cutler himself did a great job evading the rush.
Glenn Foster: D
John Jenkins: C
Jenkins pushed the pocket a couple of times, finishing with one tackle. This wasn't a very good day for the entire line overall.
Tyrunn Walker: Inc
Walker had a monster game last week but was inactive for this one. Here's hoping he gets back immediately and has a game like the one he had against Miami.
Overall Grade: C-
Junior Galette: B
Galette played a very effective game despite not getting a sack. He's a bit like Jordan in that his presence will be known weekly. Galette finished with two QB hits and one tackle. His matchup with former teammate Jermon Bushrod was a great technical battle. Bushrod seemed ready for Galette's patented spin move.
Parys Haralson: C
Haralson had one tackle but generally was lost in the shuffle. Playing a ton of 4-3 hurts an undersized player like Haralson. He is a 3-4-based outside linebacker by nature.
Martez Wilson: Inc
Wilson failed to chart a week after notching his first sack of the season. With defensive coordinator Rob Ryan opening up his playbook, it might be time to unleash this athletic beast.
Overall Grade: C
Curtis Lofton: A
Curtis Lofton is the truth. He's a sideline-to-sideline terror that brings the pain when he tackles. Having this guy as the centerpiece is worth every penny. His nine-tackle performance is standard for him but should not be glossed over.
David Hawthorne: A
Hawthorne is the Robin to Lofton's Batman. He has many of the same innate gifts as Lofton but has been a bit of an unsung hero. His five-tackle (one for a loss), one-sack (two QB hits) performance shows how he can stuff a stat sheet. He's the perfect outside linebacker in the Saints' even-front alignment.
Will Herring: Inc
Ramon Humber: B
Humber got a chance to play alongside Hawthorne and Lofton and played pretty well. He's another sideline-to-sideline athlete who will make splash tackles and hits. I don't think there's any doubt that the 4-3-based package is the most effective in the Ryan playbook.
I wonder what happens when Jonathan Vilma returns.
Overall Grade: A-
Keenan Lewis: B
Lewis played well given the amount of opportunities. The Saints had a plan to take away Brandon Marshall and did. Marshall had four catches (on five targets) for 30 yards with one TD. Lewis also had a nice pass breakup on a third-down play.
It may be time to let him shadow the hot hand, as his counterpart was torched. He finished with one tackle and one pass defensed.
Jabari Greer: D
Jabari Greer had a rough day. Alshon Jeffery didn't have all of his 10-catch, 218-yard performance against him, but it sure seemed like it. The Bears like to exploit certain matchups and go toward them often.
They found out Greer had nothing to offer their budding star and rode that matchup until the wheels fell off. I fully expect Greer to bounce back with a solid performance more reminiscent of his previous outings.
Corey White: B
White continues to flash when he's in the game. His pass deflection was just another example of that. I know Greer is a respected veteran, but I would've loved to see White match up with Jeffery. His size, speed and physicality may have given him a better shot.
Overall Grade: C
Malcolm Jenkins: A
Malcolm Jenkins was used to blitz a few times this game. He recorded one sack and just missed another. Jenkins is the best player in the secondary and continues to display his versatility on a weekly basis. If the NFL had a most improved player award, Jenkins would be on its short list.
Roman Harper: DNP
Roman Harper has been playing well. Here's hoping he comes back soon.
Kenny Vaccaro: A
Vaccaro flashed early and often (six tackles, one sack, one pass deflection, one tackle for loss and one QB hit). His coverage ability is improving from a one-on-one standpoint, but he has to work on his downfield prowess. I have no doubt he will improve exponentially.
What a tandem he and Jenkins are!
Rafael Bush: C
Rafael Bush is a solid player in the nickel and 3-3-5 packages. He would be a solid starter on most teams; he just so happens to be playing with possibly the best duo in the NFL in Jenkins and Vaccaro. Bush finished with three tackles.
Overall Grade: B+
Special Teams: B
Sproles had a couple of returns for 38 yards. Bears return ace Devin Hester didn't get loose for a big gain, so the unit deserves a positive grade for accomplishing that task.
Kicker Garrett Hartley made all four of his field-goal attempts and really was a key to the game. I have to say kudos to him for a fine day on the job.
Kickers are people too...I think?!
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